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Through the Basement

Structures called filopodia used by cancer cells to invade local tissue also help contain the tumour

23 November 2022

Through the Basement

When confined to breast tissue, breast cancer tumours can usually be safely removed by surgery, but if they metastasise, spreading to other tissues, they become more lethal. In their non-invasive early stage, known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the tumours are contained within a barrier called the basement membrane (pictured in green, around cancer cells in red, with nuclei in blue). To break through, cancer cells can use thin membrane protrusions, or filopodia, which probe the surrounding environment. Forming filopodia requires the protein myosin-X (MYO10), so tampering with MYO10 should reduce the risk of tumours escaping. Yet, contrary to expectations, tumours depleted of MYO10 are actually more invasive, because their basement membrane is weakened. Filopodia seem to contribute to building up the basement membrane, suggesting that MYO10 has a protective effect in the first stages of breast cancer, and that targeting it too early could in fact be harmful.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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